April 24, 2017

UFC Fight Night 108: Don't Sleep On Brandon Moreno As A Flyweight Contender

By Adam Martin

UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious Johnson is in dire need of fresh title contenders, and Brandon Moreno could challenge the champ for his title sooner than you think. The 23-year-old Mexican, who trains in the morning and night and works at his family’s piƱata shop during the day, was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 24: Tournament of Champions, and wasn’t expected to have this kind of success in the UFC so quickly. He was the last overall pick out of 16 fighters on the show, and was submitted by Alexandre Pantoja on the very first episode, but that hasn’t fazed him and has only served to make him mentally stronger.

After starting his MMA career 11-3 on the regional circuit, Moreno is now a perfect 3-0 since being signed by the UFC, submitting top-15 flyweight Louis Smolka on short notice as a massive underdog in his UFC debut, taking out the underrated Ryan Benoit via split decision at the TUF 24 Finale, and in his latest outing at UFC Fight Night 108, submitting top-10 fighter Dustin Ortiz with a rear-naked choke. In a division where high-end prospects are hard to come by, Moreno has quickly emerged as one, and with the champ Johnson lacking fresh challengers, Moreno is quickly becoming someone fans could see in the role.

After submitting Ortiz, who had never been finished in his career up to that point, Moreno took the microphone from UFC announcer Brian Stann and said that while it might not happen anytime soon, he eventually believes he will be the UFC Flyweight Champion. With Johnson, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport, holding the belt at the moment, in the prime of his career, it’s hard to see Moreno taking that belt right now, but if he keeps improving his game and winning fights, who knows, maybe he’ll get a title shot sooner than we think.

Johnson has basically cleaned out the flyweight division, which is why emerging talents like Moreno are so important. If you look at the Top 10, the only fights that make sense for DJ are a third fight with Joseph Benavidez, a fresh fight against Ray Borg, a fight against Sergio Pettis if he beats Henry Cejudo, and Moreno. With Benavidez having lost two fights already to Johnson, he might not get the next title shot. With Borg missing weight so often, he might not get a title shot. And with Pettis still needing to get by Cejudo, he’s no guarantee, which makes Moreno an extremely intriguing name in a division lacking them right now.

Having said all of this, there’s no need to rush Moreno into the title fight just yet. At 23, he’s still growing into his game and into his frame, so the UFC would be smart to keep bringing him progressively up the ladder like they already have been doing instead of throwing him to the shark tank right away. But in a division that badly needs new people to fight the champion, Moreno might not get the opportunity for a slow build.

Credit to Brandon Moreno, as many other fighters would have packed up shop after his subpar performance on The Ultimate Fighter. But instead of doing that, he’s turned the page and has looked amazing; his win over Dustin Ortiz is just the latest example. He deserves all the credit in the world for going from nobody to top-10 flyweight in less than a year’s time.

UFC Fight Night 108: Swanson vs. Lobov took place April 22, 2017 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

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